I have been waiting over a year for this cookbook to come out. Thomas Keller is of course the chef behind The French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon, Ad Hoc, and the Bouchon Bakeries. Sebastien Rouxel, the pastry chef and Matthew McDonald, the baker have found a way to pass a lot of their expertise through the recipes which is simply fantastic. All of the recipes are given in weights as well as standard measurements which made me so happy since weights dramatically improves results. This book is definitely more on the advanced side but if that doesn’t intimidate you and you like baking this book needs to find a way into your home.
When my pre-ordered book arrived in the middle of the week I really wasn’t sure even where to begin. Every recipe looked like something I needed to try. As luck would have it events and the farmers’ market helped make up my mind for me. First we got invited to dinner. In California we can get pretty good strawberries almost year round. I found something called a Madeleine Cake that paired with fresh fruit so I gave it a whirl. It is a delightful, lemony, light cake that does pair wonderfully well with fresh fruit.
Next up a friend of ours was celebrating a birthday (I think 29). They had no plans so my wife decided they should come over for champagne and dessert. I found some Santa Rosa plums at the market as well. I had been wanting to make Tarte Aux Prunes ever since my side trip to France and was psyched to find a recipe in the book. Turns out Chef Rouxel is a mad genius. The Pâte Sucrée dough for the tart has almond flour and vanilla bean in it. It tastes and smells amazing all by itself yet alone with almond cream and market fresh prunes. Oh yeah, and Créme Fraîche ice cream I had made. Superb!
Then my wife decided that 15 other people should come too so I needed another dessert. This time I turned to the chocolate Oh Oh recipe. I didn’t have the right chocolate to coat them with so I had to wing that but these still got rave reviews.
Of course one of the reasons I’d been looking forward to this book was the bread. There are exhaustive instructions on creating bâtards (among other breads) from a poolish and I couldn’t wait to give it a try even though I had desserts to make. The directions are excellent and as the dough was coming together I could just tell it was going well. I definitely need more practice shaping and scoring but I’ve never gotten oven spring like I did with these and the flavor was great. Can’t wait for the second attempt!
There is an amazing bakery in San Francisco called Tartine. If you are ever in San Francisco I would highly recommend a stop. They have two cookbooks out at this point Tartine and Tartine Bread. Last Christmas I got Tartine Bread and made a failed attempt to get a starter going to make their French Country bread. I still need to make another attempt but the sad fact was I had never actually had the bread from the bakery because it comes out of the oven at 5pm and I have never gotten there at that time. Last night I met up with my brother and some friends for dinner and landed in the city at 5:00 so there was only one place to go. I was a bit crushed when at 5:17 the bread had already sold out. Somehow the woman behind the counter took a little pity on me. It could have been the tears welling up ;). She let me buy a loaf from the second batch of the day. I just had to get back before 8:00. I made it back with 10 minutes to spare and took posession of my first Tartine French Country Loaf. It is as close as we get in the bay area to a Poilåne.
Alas we were too full from a fine dinner at Range (another place worth a visit!) to even sample it so it had to wait for the next day. I had just read an interesting blog post from David Lebovitz on Poilåne and it showed some tartines so I got it in my head to make them. After a little research I made up a Tartine with french butter, Fontina, greens from the garden, prosciutto, and chives.
For the uninitiated a tartine is simply what we would call an open faced sandwich in the states. Poilånd loaves are gigantic and the thin slices ar probably 12-18 inches long that they then slice across so I did my best to imitate with the size that would fit in the toaster oven. I wish you all could have joined us. It is hard to describe how the bread which is a sweet-sourdough perfectly complimented the Berkshire Prosciutto I found at the local market. Wow.
For longer than I can remember now Friday night is pizza and movie night. The pizza, as if you couldn’t guess, is homemade as is the sauce. After years of experimentation I settled on a recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
which calls for being made the day before and then cold fermenting until a few hours before showtime.
Adapted from Bread Baker’s Apprentice
20.25 ozs (4.5 cups) bread flour (I substitute 4 ozs whole wheat)
0.44 ozs (1.75 tsp) salt
0.11 ozs (1 tsp) yeast
2 ozs (1/4 c) olive oil
14 ozs (1.75 c) ice water
If you haven’t done it yet I definitely recommend a digital scale for baking. It really is just the way to go. Combine all the ingredients in a standing mixer and mix for seven minutes. I start with a paddle and then substitute the hook in after it mixes together. I then mix part of the time slow and part fast looking for decent gluten. This is a wet dough though and is hard to work with when it’s warm. I divide it into height portions and form into balls then cover on an oiled tray in the fridge for close to 24 hours.
Pull the dough from the fridge about two hours before baking and preheat you oven to as high as it will go. You do have a pizza stone or two right?! My most recent change is to coat with some “Dadda sauce” and slide it into the oven. When the crust begins to brown top with some cheese and finish the baking.
Pair with a nice wine of quality the befits the work week ;). I would definitely recommend something a bit on the fruity side. More on different toppings in a future post.
The next day we rose early and headed back to the bakery, of course. The best time to hit the Bouchon bakery is before 9:00 when normal people are finally up and about. We walked around and waved at Chef J who beckoned us inside. She was working on a wedding cake for a friend but stopped to say hi. We ordered up a haul of treats including the above pictured toffee donut which was pretty darn awesome.
After that we wandered up the The French Laundry garden and saw my friend. We talked about growing tomatoes and about how they were doing it (quite a bit different than my way of course!) but we learned a lot and also about how they irrigated so I will be detailing some more changes in the garden soon!
Then we were off up the valley to see the Old Faithful geyser of Napa. It turns out that it is pretty cool and there are goats and sheep (kid magnets) as well so the family had a good time. Before long we were headed back for our lunch date at Bouchon. I’m embarrassed to say the photos of that meal did not turn out that well but it was delicious and we were treated quite well despite the place being slammed and the staff preparing for multiple events. Annabelle and I snuck in back to say thanks to Chef S after all. So nice to step into the kitchen!
The rest of the day was consumed with swimming and bocce and a late run to Napa for pizza for calling it a day.
It was a busy Saturday where I used a variety of skills I had learned during my trip. I made my first official attempt at Bouchon Baguettes. I didn’t actually mix the dough while I was at the bakery by I handled quite a bit so I kind of knew what I was looking for. Above is what the dough looked like heading into a rest after dividing it.
I made two regular baguettes and two epis. The first two baguettes vanished quickly as the kids kept running back for more. I think I need to let it rise a bit more next time but the results were pretty good for the first attempt.
Here is the caramel and passion fruit parfait I mentioned in my previous post. When I tried this at the bakery I pretty much begged for the recipe because it was so good. I had all kinds of trouble keeping the sides of the glasses clean but in the end the taste is pretty darn incredible. Turns out it goes really, really well with scotch too. Can’t wait to make it again!
Last but not least I spent time working in the garden and planting my fancy new seeds. The front tray has a variety of different things and the back tray is partially planted with micro greens. I haven’t really had a ton of success starting things from seed before so I am excited. I also planted some carrots directly into the raised beds. Now I just need to sit back and cross my fingers.
Here are a few books next to the bed. I think I may be a sucker for anything that even mentions Thomas Keller in it because I am loving all of them. Ma Gastonomie is particularly interesting to me. It was a pivotal book in Chef’s Keller’s life and you can see the roots of The French Laundry in some of the descriptions of the famous Fernand Point an his iconic restaurant La Pyramide. Under Pressure is just fascinating and Life on the Line is the story of the head chef of Alinea and is exciting if you are a food nerd.
I took my first crack at a parfait recipe I got on my trip. Really two puddings that get layered on top of each other but I have to say it kinda kicked my butt. I thought it was going to be easy and learned some good lessons. Making the puddings was fine since my whisking skills are now beyond reproach ;). But I didn’t know/think that I needed to give the bottom pudding time to set before making the second. More importantly, though, I learned how hard it is to move the pudding into serving dishes while keeping them clean and making the layers look good. They make it look easy in the bakery but I assure you it far from easy to get a polished look. Makes you appreciate the drive for perfection that Chef Keller insists on all the more.
This weekend is pudding, my first attempt at Bouchon Baguettes, seed planting and garden maintenance, and Bouchon chicken. Hope to have some notes on all that throughout the weekend. Oh, I have now had more than 300 hits on the blog. This is a healthy bit over the number of times I have looked at it too proofread 😉 so wow. Not sure yet who all is reading since not many people are leaving comments (hint, hint) but welcome all the same.
Here are some of the seeds getting ready for a start today. Stay tuned!
Ever since my time in the bakery I have been excited to try my hand at bread again. I didn’t come away from the experience with any bread recipes (working on that 🙂 ) but I did learn a lot about handling and shaping the dough. I’ve been gathering some equipment and finally had enough to make an attempt at baguettes.
One piece of equipment was a couche. I’ve historically had problems with dough sticking where it shouldn’t so I was pretty excited about it. The good news was there was no sticking and I was able to easily transfer the baguettes to the peels with a flip board. The bad news was the outside dried off a bit more than I wanted so I will have to find a way to shelter the loaves better during proofing.
The most important piece of hardware was a super soaker canon! I put all of the cast iron I had in the house (two large skillets and a griddle) into the bottom of the oven and sprayed it ASAP after inserting the loaves. The effects are stunning
though it is depressing to see how quickly it all vents out of the home oven! I got more oven spring than I usually do though I am still not getting the same volume out of my bread as they do in the bakery. Quite a few factors to work on but the results were still quite tasty including my first homemade epi loaf.
Also, added graham crackers to the pudding this go around. The cinnamon sugar on the top was a very nice addition (thank you Chef J!).